BMO Harris Bank is on a mission to place more women in executive posts.

Women hold roughly half of the management jobs at the Chicago bank, but only about one-fourth of its executive positions. Through improved awareness of hiring managers and more robust training of mid-level managers, the bank aims to increase the number of females in senior roles from 35% to 40% within three years. The Bank of Montreal unit also wants to boost the number of people of color in senior positions and diversify its board.

Its goals are ambitious, but entirely reachable for a bank that has always placed a high value on diversity. BMO Harris is one of the few large banks in the United States to have had a female chief executive — Ellen Costello was its CEO from 2006 to 2011 — and many of its key business lines and initiatives are run by women.

Its highest-ranking female is Alex Dousmanis-Curtis, who recently moved down from Canada to head personal and commercial banking stateside and is one of three females on its executive board.

Erica Kuhlmann runs the food and consumer group for the commercial bank, a national lending group that is a key contributor to the bank's bottom line. The unit targets businesses in the food, consumer and agribusiness sectors and generates roughly 65% of its revenue from clients outside of the bank's traditional footprint.

Connie Stefankiewicz is in charge of boosting the bank's online and digital presence across North America. Stefankiewicz, who had been head of its client contact centers, was promoted last year to head of North American strategy and solutions. She is now responsible for overseeing all of the bank's delivery channels — mobile, branch, phone and ATM — to ensure that they are working together to meet customers' needs.

Central to its goal of placing more women in leadership roles is eliminating biases that may influence hiring decisions. To that end, the bank last year developed a range of new policies and tools designed to help leaders "identify, address and bridge cultural blind spots." It also held a "cultural intelligence summit" last year, inviting a social psychologist to talk with 300 employees about cultural biases.

The effort helped to boost the ratio of females and people of color in senior leadership by two percentage points in 2013 and has led to more formalized training and mentoring for junior employees seeking to move up the ranks.

Headquarters:
Chicago

2013 Financial Highlights:
Assets: $111 billion
ROE: 4.8%
ROA: 0.6%

Female representation among corporate officers: 50%

Female representation on operating committee: 27%

The Team: Leslie Anderson, Beth Bondi, Julie Curran, Pamela Dean, Alex Dousmanis-Curtis, Justine Fedak, MaryJo Herseth, Christy Horn, Kara Kaiser, Katie Kelley, Deborah Korompilas, Erica Kuhlmann, Margie Lawless, Cecily Mistarz, Daniela O'Leary-Gill, Gail Palac, Paulette Peters, Pamela Piarowski, Debbie Rechter, Lois Robinson, Connie Stefankiewicz, Caroline Tsai, Cynthia Ullrich, Susan Wolford

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